Monday, 31 December 2012

The Victorian Way of Death




She looks so peaceful lying there, doesn't she?

Maybe she's having an afternoon nap, before getting ready for a Christmas ball. Any moment, her eyes will open and she will smile, stretch her arms and...

Er, no, actually, she won't. Why not? Because she's dead. Yes, I'm serious.


You see, they did things differently in Victorian times. The advent of the marvellous new invention of photography, meant that, even in death, you could have a lasting memento of your loved one. Not only that, you could even pose with them. The only drawback there could be that, while your beloved recently departed was in perfect focus, the long exposure time would likely result in some slight movement from the living subjects rendering them a little blurred, as in this macabre example.

In the case of a deceased baby, the photograph would be the only chance to capture the image of the child so eagerly anticipated and so quickly lost. Dead babies and small children were often posed along with favourite toys.


Should a mother die in childbirth, she was often pictured with her face shrouded, her child on her lap.

In the example below, a whole family has been laid together, while in the one below, a couple hold their deceased children:



As we can also see from this last example, the practice continued well into the Twentieth Century.

It seems all too macabre to us now but, bearing in mind the high cost of photography, coupled with the fact that few families would have owned cameras, it must have been seen as an important part of the grieving process for those who chose this type of Memento Mori.
  
A mere 100+ years on, how times - and customs - have changed!

Monday, 24 December 2012

Wishing You All A Happy and Peaceful Christmas


Whoever you are, wherever you may be, 

I wish you a Happy, Peaceful and Joyous Christmas

Thank you all for your support and friendship throughout 2012



Sunday, 23 December 2012

Six More From Miss Abigail's Room


Almost Christmas. The perfect time for curling up with a chilling ghost story, so here are six more sentences for Six Sentence Sunday. Poor Becky, the under house parlourmaid, has been ordered back into Miss Abigail's Room to clean up the mess. She's almost finished, when she finds a doll with a darning needle stuck through its heart:

The room became oppressive. She wiped her dripping forehead as the adrenalin swirled.
She had to get out of that room. As fast as she could, she grabbed the dirty curtains and wastebasket with one hand and the bucket with the other. She had just made it to the doorway when she heard a deep, heartfelt, male sigh. 


And she knew, without looking, the sigh had come from that doll. 



You can read extracts from the other great authors participating in Six Sentence Sunday by clicking here


'Miss Abigail's Room' is available from:

Amazon.com
Amazon.co.uk
Omnilit
Barnes and Noble
Kobo

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Ghosts of Pirates Past - with Elin Gregory



Where do pirates go when they die? Elin Gregory, my guest today, has been pondering this. Read on to find out more - and how you can win a copy of her exciting new historical romance, On A Lee Shore. Over to you, Elin:


Many thanks, Cat, for so kindly inviting me to your blog to talk about pirates. 


I gave the subject matter for this blog post some thought. What pirate related information would suit best on a paranormal blog? 


Well obviously – ghosts! So I've been googling and searching around for suitably scary stories. There should be plenty of material. Many pirates met miserable ends. 


Blackbeard, for instance, was brought to bay in Okracoke inlet, fought til he dropped, then had his head hacked off to swing from a bowsprit. Apparently his corpse was thrown overboard and it swam three times round the ship before sinking. Now there's a man who would be haunting us if he possibly could. But even though there are tales about a portly black-whiskered gentleman who peers from the top window of an old house it has to be said that the house is USA old rather than European old, having been put up in the 1890s.


Bartholomew Roberts met his end in a crashing thunder storm when a naval vessel was chasing his ship. "A short life but a merry one" he had said and his career was cut short when a marksman shot him through the throat. As he lay dying, his crew in tears, they vowed to ignite the gunpowder they kept near the keel so they could go to the bottom together, but some forced men on the ship held them off.  Roberts' body was wrapped in his black silk flag and slipped overboard still wearing the great gold and diamond cross he had stolen from a Portuguese galleon. You would think that some sailor, keeping watch while the thunder crashed overhead might have seen a tall dark man in red striding the quarterdeck while the lightning drew fire from his diamonds – but no. Apparently not.


One of the saddest stories is of the infamous Captain William Kidd, a fine and honest seaman, who took a letter of marque to sail the Indian Ocean as a legitimate privateer. His crew, unruly and mutinous, gradually took control of the ship until he was little better than a navigator while they boarded and looted ships that should have been allowed to sail unmolested. When they were caught it was Kidd who paid the ultimate price. He was carried in chains to London, tried for acts of piracy on the high seas, convicted and hanged at Execution Dock - twice. The rope broke on the first occasion so they strung him up again! Then his corpse was wrapped in chains, dipped in tar and hung up on Blackwall Point as a terrible warning to young men heading for the sea. Execution Dock was used to put an end to seafaring miscreants for over 400 years, the final executions taking place in 1830. It has long since been built over and a small Underground station stands there now. Despite the hundreds of executions that took place on the site nobody who has been standing on the station platform late at night has reported an eerie chill in the air not anyone whispering a final prayer. 
 

So if there are no pirate ghosts – why are there no pirate ghosts? 


Perhaps there's a pirate equivalent to Valhalla? Where the naval vessels are slow and easily bamboozled, the prizes are rich, ports friendly, doubloons plentiful and the rum never never runs short.


If you were a pirate, how would you like to spend eternity? Comment below for a chance to win a copy of my novel On A Lee Shore





Blurb: “Give me a reason to let you live…”


Beached after losing his ship and crew, and with England finally at peace, Lt Christopher Penrose will take whatever work he can get. A valet? Why not? Escorting an elderly diplomat to the Leeward Islands seems like an easy job, but when their ship is boarded by pirates, Kit’s world is turned upside down. Forced aboard the pirate ship, Kit finds himself juggling his honor with his desire to stay alive among the crew, not to mention the alarming—yet enticing—captain, known as Le Griffe. 


Kit has always obeyed the rules, but as the pirates plunder their way across the Caribbean, he finds much to admire in their freedom. He deplores their lawlessness but is drawn to their way of life, and begins to think he might just have found a purpose. Dare he dream of finding love too? Or would loving a pirate take him too far down the road to ruin?


Obtainable here or here if you're in the States.


Excerpt:


He had just finished fitting the desk together when he felt the first real sign of life from the ship.


“Sir George, would you care to go on deck?”


“Why, what’s happening?” Sir George asked, closing his book.


“The hands are weighing anchor,” Kit said. “Can you feel how the ship moves? She knows she’s free. I thought you might like to come up and wave good-bye to Portsmouth.”


“The last glimpse of England, eh?” Sir George grinned and straightened his wig. “That will be most agreeable.”


Sir George was a little unsteady on his feet, and Kit left him holding onto the railing while he went to pay his respects to the captain and ask if there was a corner where the captain’s paying passenger could stand. The captain expressed delight at the request. He sent men running to find a chair for Sir George and promised to join him shortly, just as soon as they were in more open waters.


Kit had no fault to find with the running of the ship. The men moved willingly and the master seemed deft enough. Sir George held onto his wig with one hand and poured out questions, gesturing with the other.


“So that’s what a stay is.” He peered up at the heavy rope thrumming taut between the two masts. “I always wondered. One might be familiar with the term on paper, but it’s good to have some knowledge of the practical application.”


“Indeed, sir,” Kit said.


Sir George’s good humor lasted until they cleared the harbor and Hypatia heeled over as the wind caught her sails properly for the first time. He was looking up, mouth open, as he watched the men aloft, and the sudden tilt of the deck, exaggerated by the swing of the masts, made him go pale.


“Penrose,” he said, “I do believe I’m feeling seasick. What do you advise?”


“Look at the horizon, sir, and try to ignore the ship, if you can,” Kit suggested. “But if you think you may be ill…”


“May be? I feel it is a certainty,” Sir George muttered.


Kit helped his master below and set about trying to make him comfortable. Once the inevitable had happened, a small glass of brandy and a pinch of ginger under the tongue settled his stomach for the time being. Kit left him with a basin and a towel and went back on deck to wash out the bucket and get some fresh air.


Sir George would be all right. He was calm and cooperative and seemed to be accepting the sickness as a natural hazard of travel rather than a terrifying illness, as did some landsmen. As for Kit, he set his feet firmly and smiled as the deck shifted under him, the wind tugging at the skirts of his coat.


He was at sea—home—and even a bucket of vomit couldn’t take the gloss off that happiness.

~~~

Many many thanks, Catherine, for being such a gracious host.

My pleasure, Elin!

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Miss Abigail's Room on Six Sentence Sunday


It's Sunday again and time for Six Sentence Sunday

Here are mine, from an early chapter of my latest horror novella, Miss Abigail's Room:

'As the door opened, they stepped forward to enter the room.
Sarah gasped. Becky let out a shriek and almost dropped her bucket. Every single ornament was smashed, and the blood was not only back but smeared over the walls and curtains. Becky jerked backward, heedless of the sloshing water from her dropped bucket. Sarah slammed the door shut and the two women hugged each other, trembling with fear.' 



'Miss Abigail's Room' is available from:

Amazon.com 
Amazon.co.uk
Omnilit
Barnes and Noble

Kobo



Friday, 7 December 2012

Miss Abigail's Room is Here! Dare You Enter?

It wasn’t so much the blood on the floor that Becky minded. It was the way it kept coming back…




As the lowest ranking parlor maid at Stonefleet Hall, Becky gets all the dirtiest jobs. But the one she hates the most is cleaning Miss Abigail’s room. There’s a strange, empty smell to the place, and a feeling that nothing right or Christian resides there in the mistress’s absence. And then there’s the blood, the spot that comes back no matter often Becky scrubs it clean. Becky wishes she had somewhere else to go, but without means or a good recommendation from her household, there is nothing for her outside the only home she’s known for eighteen years. So when a sickening doll made of wax and feathers turns up, Becky’s dreams of freedom and green grass become even more distant. Until the staff members start to die.

A darning needle though the heart of the gruesome doll puts everyone at Stonefleet Hall at odds. The head parlor maid seems like someone else, the butler pretends nothing’s amiss, and everyone thinks Becky’s losing her mind. But when the shambling old lord of the manor looks at her, why does he scream as though he’s seen the hounds of hell?


Miss Abigail's Room is available now from

Amazon.com 
Amazon.co.uk
Omnilit
Barnes and Noble and will soon be available from:


Kobo
and other online booksellers